Monday, May 22, 2006
Top Ten this that will not happen to you in my burrow, No 9
9. The driver in the car behind you will not be overly annoyed if you stop at a red light
I was going down to Batangas and ran into a red light at a crossing, where I, as a result of my previous schooling, stopped. (I would have done it even if it were no traffic. Here there were cars coming in from both sides). The car behind immediately started honking and my Filipino friend J, who was sitting next to me wondered what I was doing, stopping in the middle of the road like that.
– “Is something wrong”
- “It´s red”, I said, pointing at the lights.
- “Oh, that. No, nobody takes notice of the traffic lights here. Just go with the flow”
Traffic in the Philippines is nothing like home but it basically boils down to one single aspect:
A brief acquaintance told me about the first mail he ever received in the Philippines. It had a short tag in the end, like a randomly selected word of wisdom, which read: ”Welcome to the Philippines – where the law is just a suggestion”. When you realise that what you learned about traffic rules are just suggestions, driving is much easier. Here are some tips:
1. There is the general right of way if you’re coming from the right. But it’s modified to include the size of your car. Thus, if you have a big car (= high status) the right-rule only applies if you meet another big car. Otherwise you get right of way from the I-got-a-bigger-car-rule.
2. Traffic lights, if you can find them, has the following colour code
Red= Look before you GO!
3. Stop signs, where I’ve learned that you must come to a complete stop has been modified to mean ”you might consider shifting down to third gear before you GO!”
4. You communicate by honking and flashing. Don’t be afraid to use it. This span from the courteous “I’m coming”, “Thank you”, “Please pass” to the usual “Get out of my way” and “…and your mama” honks.
5. Streets, even highways, are public spaces inhabited not only by cars, jeepneys, tricycles and motorbikes but also children, basketball matches, food vendors, and dogs. All non-vehicles except dogs will move when you come.
The picture shows the signs telling you how to get out from SM Southmall. I tried to stop to take the picture, but a security guard had other ideas so I had to go around to get this fantastic paparazzi shot.